Cumberland Times-News

Columns

October 2, 2012

Vaudeville shows predated movies in Queen City theaters

Before movies, Cumberland’s theaters hosted vaudeville shows. These were live theatrical performances similar to a television variety show. Performances might include musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, male and female impersonators, acrobats, jugglers and one-act plays. Vaudeville shows were popular from the 1880s to the early 1930s, when talking movies became commonplace.

Harry Crandall, who owned theaters in Washington, D.C., opened the Strand Theatre at South Liberty and Pershing streets on Sept. 3, 1920, at the height of the vaudeville age. In May 1923, the Cumberland Evening Times announced that the Keith Vaudeville Show would be coming to the Strand and would be the “most expensive attraction of its kind ever shown in Cumberland.”

The Strand was one of a number of Cumberland theaters that staged live shows. Some of the other theaters that also did were the Maryland, Liberty, Majestic and Merryland Park.

Benjamin Franklin Keith produced the Keith Vaudeville Show. Keith got his start as a circus barker. His success allowed him to purchase a theater. He presented shows in his theater that allowed him to purchase more theaters and produce traveling shows. When vaudeville gave way to movies, so did Keith. He became the “K” in “R.K.O.” movies.

The show was coming to town to raise funds for the Dramatic Order Knights of Khorassan, a fraternal order associated with the Knights of Pythias. The Knights of Khorassan were also known as Dokkies, which comes from the organization’s initials, D.O.K.K.

The Keith Vaudeville Show came to Cumberland for six days. It was actually two different shows. One show was performed twice a day the first three days of the week. On Thursday, the show changed for the final three days.

The first set of performers included:

• Vera Burt, Saxi Holtsworth and their Harmony Hounds in “a lively melange of song and dance.”

• The Clinton Sisters doing interpretive costumed dancing.

• Ann Gray, a harpist and vocalist who was an “international artist who has appeared before Princess Mary on nine occasions.”

• John R. Gordon and Co. doing a comedy sketch.

• Saxon and Griffin performing a farcical skit.

• William and Mary Rogers, “Literary Di-Jesters,” which featured comedy and songs.

• Beege and Qupee who combined “speed, grace, skill and novelty” roller skating.

Shows were twice a day. Matinee seats cost 50 cents and evening show seats cost $1 for one on the balcony or $1.50 for orchestra seats.

“It was an ambitious venture to bring this expensive aggregation here, but judging from the effect yesterday, it would seem that the Dokkies have a paying investment and that their benefit week should net them a goodly sum over and above expenses, which are very large,” according to the Cumberland Evening Times.

When the shows switched on Thursday, the new performers were:

• Melody and Steps, a song and dance revue.

• Harry Breen who was a singing comedian and songwriter.

• Hyams and Evans performed a comedy skit called “The Quakeress.”

• Leo Beers, the well-known international entertainer.

• Conlin and Glass performed a musical comedy skit.

• Mignon who was a “dainty little mimic.”

• Dixon, Lynch and Cins who performed a comedy skit.

The extravaganza was considered a great success. “The Dramatic Order Knights of Khorassan put on one of the most stupendous weeks of high-class amusement ever attempted here,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

The Strand Theatre switched to showing movies after vaudeville died. The final movie was shown in September 1972. When it closed, the Strand was the last operating theater in Cumberland.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Peanuts and Cracker Jack beat any foam finger

    Times have changed, and for the better, as this week marks the third year in a row NFL training camps have opened and have not taken center stage in the cities of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington. That, of course, is due to the play of the three baseball teams that inhabit said cities, the Orioles, the Pirates and the Nationals — two of whom hold first place in their respective divisions, with the other one entering play on Wednesday just 2 1/2 games out of first.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014